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Sloggs' Travel Blog A journal of my travels in 2008 & beyond...

Mount Kinabalu!!

MALAYSIA | Monday, 17 March 2008 | Views [6361] | Comments [8]

Woohoo! Stood on the roof of Borneo!

Woohoo! Stood on the roof of Borneo!

This weekend I went and did something completely different! I like the outdoors, and am a reasonably sporty person (and not terribly unfit), but for the last couple of years I have been one lazy mofo (hence the big belly and round face you all know and love!). Climbing a mountain however, is not something I would normally undertake!

Mount Kinabalu is the highest peak in Borneo, standing at 4095.2 Meters at its highest peak, called Low's Peak, and the walk up to it along the south side is 8.7km. This is therefore not an altogether easy undertaking!

I'd met with Gavin and Gail, and Duncan and Kate, who had all done this and so took some advice from them before the climb. Most people who do this buy a 'package' from one of the few tour operators that are up there, which are bloody expensive for a room and two meals! I decided to cut the cost and only booked a unheated room at the camp 6km up the mountain, and I thought I'd either buy food once there or take some food with me. I'd bought a gortex rain jacket from one of the malls in Kinabalu a few days before for the trip and some nice thick walking socks from a shop called 'sox-world', which literally only sold socks! I wore my battered old brown striped polo shirt, that I'd ruined at the elephant sanctuary, with the intention of putting it in the bin at the 6km camp as I figured it would be pretty minging! I also wore my thicker traveling trousers and carried my fleece, rain jacket, two spare shirts and underwear, plus headlamp (for the night ascent to the summit), first aid kit, pain killers, rehydration sachets, woolie beanie and gloves that I brought from home (well worth carrying those around!), and my camera and spare battery. My one-day pack was bought precisely for this kind of day trip too, as it can hold just about enough for this kind of trip and has a full 'limpet' system to strap it on so it doesn't move around. I also took some sugar biscuits thanks to Duncan and Kate having some left over and bought some salty peanuts to take too, partly for energy, and partly to help reduce muscle cramp! Fairly well prepared for a complete novice... (my main backpack was staying with Andy in our room at the hostel as he was staying around for a few more days)

I left the hostel at 7am to walk to the bus depot nearby, only to see two full mini buses full and leaving for Ranau (going past the Kinabalu National park)! It took me a further hour to blag my way into a 6 seater taxi full of Malaysian's for RM15 to get to the park a bit later than planned. This meant that by the time I got there to register and pay, most people had set off already! I decided to wait around for half an hour, just in case anyone else turned up late so that I could save the total cost of a guide. Once the climb is done, it becomes clear that you don't actually need a guide for this, the whole path is obviously marked out and the average guide doesn't even point out wildlife for you! After a little while a lone Thai girl, called 'Sin', arrived and registered, so I had a chat and we agreed to share the guide fees. She is a student from Bangkok, and is in Kinabalu to take part in a fencing competition on Sunday night...!!! She was not very well prepared for this climb, with limited warm gear and terrible shoes... how she thought she could ever take part in a fencing tournament the same day as coming back down from the mountain was beyond me!

We set off on our way about 11:30am. The climb was interesting to say the least! The mountain has a lot of different terrain under foot, and the merrell shoes I bought before I came on my trip really came into their own on the way up, not one slip or dodgy moment underfoot... although I was being extremely careful as picking up a twisted ankle or knee would be disasterous on the climb!

It was quite hot to start out with, but by the time we were about 3km along the walk, the clouds were rolling across the mountain and they were cold and left water on the clothing.

About halfway up I was feeling pretty good really and kept my pace up at a reasonable standard, leaving Sin and the guide behind. As the air thins higher up, so your heart rate increases. I measured 150bpm at one point and even after a 5 minute stop and rest, as soon as you make some more steps, it is back up again. It was tough going, but I was feeling good. I didn't seem to suffer any 'altitude sickness' after 3000 meters up, which was nice, and I did not have to use my inhalers once! [I've been asthmatic most of my life, but the last two years I've pretty much not used an inhaler thanks to the GP finally getting my medication right!]

I reached the base camp, at 6km and 3800ish meters after about 5 hours, which is pretty average pace. My clothes and me were absolutely drenched in sweat and the water in the air, so it was nice to have a hot shower and change into fresh underwear and shirt! My hut was a little further up the mountain from the base camp, so I had to venture back down to get some food. Having heard about the standard of the buffet and the cost, I decided to be a bit naughty and just help myself to the buffet...! So I walked in, grabbed a plate, filled it up and demolished it! The food wasn't terrible and surprisingly I didn't feel bad at the huge monetary saving for my small misdemeanor! I also sunk about 4 big cups of malaysian tea, which was probably the best bit! I chatted with a Danish couple and a Scottish chap about the climb and our travels and then went of to bed about 8pm to get some rest before the 2:30am start to get to the summit!

After some crap broken sleep, I woke about 2am and got my kit ready for the cold part of the climb. I wore my thick trousers, two tshirts, my micro fleece, rain coat, thin balaclava, hat, gloves and thick socks and shoes, plus took my bag with only my camera, paracetamol and drinking water in it.

Shortly after setting out we were in a queue on some thin stairways up from camp, obviously most people were heading out as they wanted to make the summit to see the sun rise!

Once I got past those people, I set my own pace again and was so glad I had purchased the head lamp last week! The sky was perfectly clear and so full of stars. I didn't know there were that many up there!!! The mountain trail was basically pieces of rope tethered on the rocks and linked together, more as a marker than something to hang on to. In places the ropes were essential though, and on coming down the mountain in daylight, I was stunned to see some of the parts I'd scaled going up in the pitch black!!

I got myself in between the speedy people at the front and everyone else and spent much of the climb completely alone, unable to hear or see anyone in either direction. I took break on one of the rock slopes and switched off my light just to take in the amazing pitch black and view in the sky. Quite a unique experience in my book!

At the summit there were about 10 people already there, all shivering cold and wishing they'd gone a little slower! I spent the hour or so waiting for the sunrise, chatting to an Australian couple who live in Singapore to try and keep the cold out of our minds! We huddled together behind some rocks for shelter from the 4 degrees C and biting wind, just beneath the summit. The game of I-spy didn't last long! ;-)

When the sun came up everyone was obviously taking pictures and some people were still arriving after the climb. It cheered everyone up to get such a spectacular view of the mountain, the coast and capital city and pretty much half of Sabah! On one rock face next to the peak is the face of a gorilla, which is huge and quite a bizarre coincidence being here naturally in Sabah!

On the descent back down to base camp I could really see what I'd just climbed up, some parts with insane drops off next to them!! I suspect that those climbing up in daylight, have more reservations about completing the climb to the summit in light of what they can see!

Once we got back to base camp, I changed out of my sweaty gear into just one shirt and the fleece and went down to checkout and blag breakfast!

It was at this point that I could feel the worrying pain in my left knee, a good old niggling rugby injury, probably scar tissue from a minor tear years ago, starting to flair up! Once we got going it was soon clear that this was going to be an even bigger mental challenge that the climb up yesterday!

After 1.5km, I was in agony in the left knee. I would never use that term lightly, especially as I'm reasonably good at handling pain, but this was a major problem for me. I could step up on that leg no problem, but I could not bend it to step down with my weight on it... which seeing as I was walking down a mountain, was a problem!

I took one stop to take two of my remaining four paracetamols and set off determined to make good progress! Each kilometer from the 5.5km mark took me one hour, but it seemed like longer! The guide stayed with me, which basically annoyed me as I was going so slow with him behind me, but he would not leave me to get on with it. For the first kilometer or so I could just about bend the leg enough on the parts with steps, by moving down them sideways on and using the railings to grip and keep some weight off of the leg, but after a while I couldn't even do that due to the shooting and piercing pain through the knee and up the thigh! Essentially from 4.5km to go, my right leg made every step down the mountain apart from on the few flat parts and the fewer still uphill parts. The journey down the mountain from base camp took me around 5 hours, which I later learned was average for most people, although I can hardly believe that, I was going so slowly! I was basically putting my straight left leg down on the steps (which in itself is jarring and uncomfortable over that distance) and bringing my right leg forward to the same point, over and over all the way down! The slopes were the slowest and hardest parts, as they were slippery wet rocks, some uneven, or mud paths and I had to stop and figure out a route over some parts before attempting them.

When I got back to the bottom of the mountain, I decided I should buy a certificate to keep as a reminder, and then swiftly got on the bus and left for town, fearing that if I hung around there for lunch my knee would start to stiffen up and be even worse when crammed into the bus back!

Andy picked up some ice for me when I got back to the hostel and after I showered I iced my knee to death! It was not swollen at all, which was a relief but also bloody annoying considering the pain I went through! I also bought some 650mg Paracetamol tablets in the pharmacy which helped through the night!

I consider those two days to be pretty important in my life! As a serial whinger it taught me a lot, I had no one and nothing to moan to, and I really had to over come the mental issues to get down that bloody mountain by myself. Not only that, but making the climb and the summit were a big achievement for me personally as well. Much of this trip has changed my mindset and the way I think about life, and this day will most probably live with me forever and I hope I can look back on it in the future in times of difficulty for some inspiration. (Cheesey, but a true sentiment none the less)

I'm sat here now with general muscle soreness in the calf muscles and thighs, which I expected (and kind of like), and a very sore left knee(not liking that!). I've just rested all day basically and used the time to upload all my photos onto the web.

Shortly I'm going out to walk for about 10-15 minutes to the Indian place, to stretch the legs a bit and enjoy that great food before I fly to KL tomorrow. I did try and change my flight, as I don't fancy carrying my pack around and then sitting in that small seat tomorrow, but I was too late getting back Sunday to change it, so fly I shall! My plan was to walk around KL for a coulpe of days, so I'm hoping the legs get over it all by Wednesday.

So, thats it! I've climbed a bloody mountain! It wasn't something I ever thought I'd do... but I'm so glad I did it.

I took some nice photo's at a high resolution, and they're up on photobucket for you to see.

I'll update from KL, maybe not until after the grand prix this coming weekend. I'm sooooooooooooo excited about that! Come on Lewis! 8-)

Chuurs for reading my ramblings...

Sloggs  :)

Tags: adrenaline, mountains, the great outdoors




Sounds quite painful all that knee lark! I've only got to look at Bob to imagine what that looked and sounded like. Fair play for taking the mountain strut though sounds well worth the browse.

  vin Mar 18, 2008 4:24 AM


You are a hero especially that you have now joined the knee club! you will be able to compair notes with dad! Pics are fab and it was obviously worth the effort.

  mum Mar 19, 2008 12:00 AM


Well done you, looks and sounds amazing! I think Harvey may of experienced a similar climb when he got stuck at the top of a climbing frame at the zoo!! Life changing!
x x

  Jo Mar 19, 2008 7:46 PM


Its worth the pain. The photos are great.
I'm planning my trip end of the year'2008. Would like to make my own arragnement when i'm in KK. Any advixe ??

  FL Apr 4, 2008 4:35 PM


Hi Fiona, I've emailed you with my advice... thanks for reading... :-)

  sl0ggs Apr 4, 2008 5:19 PM


hey, welcome to msia.

Came across your as I was searching for Mt KK climbing tips. I will be attempting to climb later this year. I'm nervous! ahha..

  Stranger Apr 17, 2008 1:31 AM


hello its a great account of kinabalu hike! I was wondering if you can advice, how do i book the unheated room at laban rata, because my friend and i would like to go budget too. Thanks :):)

  Lili Apr 20, 2008 4:48 PM


Hi Lili, thanks for your comment.

I booked only 4 days ahead and there were plenty of beds left in the shared rooms... if you aren't going to be in Kinabalu long before you plan to climb, then you should try and book in advance with them direct. This is the main company that run the accomodation and camp on the mountain, and this is who I booked with, at their office in the 'Wisma Sabah' shopping building at the northern end of the town. Just ask them for a bed only, and take your own food or some money with you to eat... http://www.suterasanctuarylodges.com.my/

Good luck! :-)

  sl0ggs Apr 25, 2008 5:33 PM

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